By Marina Stojanovska
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle made an unannounced visit to Skopje to meet with political leaders in the midst of a parliamentary standoff, now in its second month.
The discussions last week did not produce immediate results, and analysts said that the disruptions caused by the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) are likely to impact the European Commission’s upcoming report on the country.
“There is no doubt that the events of December 24th will be noted in the next European Commission report,” Biljana Vankovska, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje, told SETimes. “But now we’re probably seeing the carrot and stick tactics, by which there may be efforts for the report not to inflict too much harm on the country.”
Difficulties began on December 24th, when SDSM MPs were removed from the parliament hall after creating disturbances prior to a session on the 2013 budget.
Füle met with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who is the leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE; SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski and President Gjorge Ivanov.
“It was all part of the preparations for the spring report of the European Commission regarding the country’s progress,” Füle said, referring to his January 23rd visit.
Parliament has continued work without the SDSM coalition, whose members have staged street protests and are threatening to boycott the next local elections.
“For the time being, there are no noticeable effects of the visit, at least not in the behaviour of the chief players,” Vankovska said.
Ivanov announced the formation of a commission that aims to clarify the events of December 24th, but Crvenkovski declined to participate. The initiative was supported by the European Commission.
Jove Kekenovski, a professor of political science at St Kliment Ohrid University in Bitola, said Füle’s visit was an attempt to exert influence on finding a solution.
“[T]he political crisis will find its place in the spring report, but I also reckon that the European commissioner is trying to decrease the profundity of the consequences it will leave on the attempts to solve the name dispute and to open negotiations with the European Union, and thus strengthen the country’s Euro-Atlantic integrations,” Kekenovski said.
But some have a different view.
Vladimir Bozinovski, analyst at the Institute for Political Research in Skopje, said Crvenkovski may be using the December events as a ploy not to participate in the March election to avoid a seventh consecutive defeat and save his leadership position in SDSM.
“Creating political tensions in the hope of winning political points among voters is a losing strategy,” Bozinovski told SETimes. “Crvenkovski practicing ‘street democracy’ in a democratic country with a legitimately elected government is laughable.”